Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Dirty Dozen, with James Solo

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James Solo

James Solo (aka Jim Hickman) is a teacher, writer, editor, entrepreneur, art director and musician. He is also the author of mystery novel DarkBeat (Iguana Books). You can read a sample of DarkBeat here.

In his answers to The Dirty Dozen Series, which asks authors to share twelve unexpected facts about themselves, James tells Open Book about his past adventures, spirituality and his love/hate relationship with buying ties.

Read on to hear from James in his own words.

  1. I play drums in a progressive rock/metal band. In my novel, DarkBeat, the protagonist is a drummer, albeit a much more famous one. But still, being there helps. Not that paradiddles will ever work their way into the pages though.
  2. Although I’ve been a creative director for quite a while now, there’s none of that in my book. It’s work — not passion. Oh, oh, I hope none of my clients see this.
  3. Too many years ago, when I was a magazine writer, a perfect storm meant that four of my articles appeared during the same month. And even though my biggest fan, my mother, got all of those periodicals (of which Reader’s Digest was a favourite), she never noticed who had written the stories. So much for bylines.
  4. I’m old enough to remember the last time the Leafs won the Stanley Cup, in 1967. It’s disconcerting to realize that they may never win another before I’m pushing up grass.
  5. It’s taken me far too long to stop buying ties — especially since I haven’t worn them regularly in a couple of decades. Now they’re just a cliché, for weddings and funerals. But, in a store, one or two will call out to me, and I imagine how well they’ll go with my suits and sport coats. Now I understand my wife’s undying relationship with shoes.
  6. Okay, so I’m anal. Language evolves. But when people and, especially, broadcasters say “eggzit,” “lugjury,” “libury,” “hunnerd” and “Febuary,” it bothers me.
  7. Secularity is my spirituality. To me, religion is revelation; reason is evidence. But everyone has a God-given right to their religious beliefs. Whatever gets you through the night.
  8. Toronto was a grey, bland, conservative city during my boyhood, where there was only one French restaurant and a law against serving alcohol on Sundays. But I appreciate how immigration’s bounty has transformed it into one of the most exciting, diverse cities on earth — and certainly a gourmand’s paradise.
  9. I’ve exercised regularly since grade seven. Even now, I push weight, cross-country ski and hike. Owning a dog forces me outside — because the mutt requires a good walk every day of the year, no matter what the weather. Currently, science has proven what I’ve known all along: people need to move more to prevent premature death.
  10. Teaching students in graphic design, public relations and journalism at Ryerson and Humber was an extremely rewarding experience early in my career, as are the occasional guest lectures that I still give. To see someone understand and digest what you’re saying — and perhaps even remember or be influenced by it — is humbling. And listening to a class articulate their opinions and contrarian views makes me feel like a student again.
  11. I was never much for arithmetic.


James Solo is the pen name of a Toronto-born creative director who leads his own design and communications company, Manx Strategic Creative Inc. A graduate of journalism at Ryerson, he worked as a magazine writer, editor and art director; later, he was director of creative services in the Ontario government.

Prior to starting Manx, Solo was president and creative director of King West Communications, which was then one of Canada’s largest contract publishers and design firms. He lives in the rural confines of Mono, northwest of Toronto. When he’s not toiling at his day job, Solo plays drums very loudly in a progressive rock/metal band.

For more information about DarkBeat please visit the Iguana Books website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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